Stimulating the Local Economy with My Stomach

October 30, 2009 | | Comments Off on Stimulating the Local Economy with My Stomach

At every downturn in the economic cycle, consumers look to save money by cutting back on expenses. I include myself in this group of penny pinchers but I believe I have formed a habit that will outlast any recession. This summer I began to do my weekly shopping at the local farmers market three blocks from my house. What began as a cheap and fast way to get my groceries turned into an exercise in economics.

With the government spending billions of dollars in an effort to end a recession, I decided to do my part. By spending my weekly grocery money at the local farmer’s market I keep my money in the hands of my fellow community members. Farmers who sell their crops to industrial food suppliers earn pennies on the dollar from the products sold containing their crops. In contrast, farmers who sell their crops at farmers markets keep 90 cents of every dollar. The financial hardships that small, organic, and sustainable farmers perpetually endure are often masked in the media by stories of massive government subsidies and the rising cost of crops. Despite the seemingly prosperous status of the farming industry, the media coverage mostly reflects the large industrial farming system that mass-produces meat and other “food” products. These industrial farming operations have taken over our food system and are running small family farms out of business. By spending my grocery money at the farmer’s market, I encourage a healthier, more sustainable food system that also supports my local community.

In addition to keeping my money in my community, buying my food from my local farmers market reduces my carbon footprint. The average American meal travels over 1,500 miles before it reaches the dinner table. And 40% of the fruit in our grocery stores in shipped in from overseas. That is an incredible amount of resources to bring something to my table that can be grown just as well down the street. By simply buying my food from my local farmers market I support a sense of collegiality and partnership with my neighbors that contributes to a healthier, more prosperous community while rejecting the industrial food supply and its reliance on an unsustainable system of growth and transportation.

Every time I leave the farmers market I am overwhelmed by a sense of satisfaction. The piece of mind that accompanies the knowledge of what land and by what hand my meal was produced is invaluable. I see the effects on the local community that my patronage has wrought – from the family who gets to keep their livelihood to a child gaining an education in environmental sustainability – and wonder why I ever shopped anywhere else.

Spector, Rebecca. “Fully Integrating Food Systems: Regaining Connections between Farmers and Consumers” Edited by Kimbrell, Andrew. (2002) Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. Foundation for Deep Ecology. P. 353

Pirog, Rich. Food, Fuel, and Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Ames, Iowa. June 2001

Jerardo, Alberto. “The Import Share of U.S. Consumed Food Continues to Rise.” USDA Economic Research Service. July, 2002.
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